Three excellent films top this week's new DVD offerings.
"The Book Thief," Grade B+: A young girl escapes from the horrors of war through books. Geoffrey Rush stars.
Director Brian Percival started with a solid story based on the book by Markus Zusak. This is an examination of the battle between the thirst for knowledge and the dependency on ignorance that helped the Nazi party spread. War is a ghoulish specter that enters and leaves the lives of a family, but it is always waiting just outside, along with the character of Death, who narrates the story.
These external forces are catalysts for events in the lives of these people, but the focus is always the connection they make and embrace no matter what's going on in the outside world.
"Inside Llewyn Davis," Grade B: A look at a week in the life of a folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
Because it takes such an unorthodox path, the film is not going to be pleasing to all audiences. It must be treated like the lyrics of a folk song: Look at it with the knowledge that some things are up to personal interpretations.
If you find the right rhythm, the film is a cinematic composition that keeps on entertaining.
"Out of the Furnace," Grade B+: Scott Cooper's film is the story of two brothers who, through outside circumstances, end up committing life-changing actions. While what they do is intriguing, it's how Cooper looks at the forces that shape their lives that makes the movie so compelling.
The film is set in an economically depressed area of steel country in Pennsylvania. Hope — like the factory that once made this a thriving community — has all but shut down. This leaves those still clinging to the promises of a brighter future looking for a solution.
"Out of the Furnace" is a masterfully crafted tale of people and a place pushed to the edge where their only hope seems to be an abyss of despair.
"Homefront," Grade D+: The script was written by Sylvester Stallone, but it comes across like it was penned by Rocky Balboa.
Jason Statham, the best screen mumbler since Stallone, plays Phil Broker, a former DEA agent who has moved to the creepy, sleepy town of Rayville, La. Since the death of his wife two years ago, he's looking for a quieter place to raise his 9-year-old daughter.
It's a punch-drunk story that wobbles between a family film and an over-the-top action movie and fails to utilize the best parts of either. The knockout punch is a plot element that's so ludicrous the rest of the film moves along on wobbly knees.
Also new on DVD Tuesday:
"Beyond Outrage": Crackdown on organized crime ignites underworld power struggle.
"The Science of Measurement": Look at the history of seven international units of measurement.
"Tickety Toc: Spring Chicks Time": Twins Tommy and Tallulah go on seasonal adventures.
"Abner the Invisible Dog": Chad and his loyal, canine sidekick must save the day.
"Enemies Closer": Tom Everett Scott plays a man who must battle for his life.
"Rogue": DirecTV series starring Thandie Newton.
"Transformers Armada: The Complete Series": Autobots fight to save the universe.
"Siberia": Fictional reality show set in Siberia.
"Digimon Data Squad": Heroes face a massive conflict between Earth and the Digital World.
"Armistice": Marine is forced to fight for his life against grotesque, inhuman opponents.
"Angelina Ballerina: Spring Fling": Angelina and her friends try different traditions.
"101st: A-Company": Raid on a Nazi fortress where attempts are being made to raise a demon army.
"Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo": Rabbit decided it's "Spring Cleaning Day."
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutagen Mayhem": Turtles face real danger from villains all over the city.
"The Flintstone Kids: Rockin' in Bedrock": Includes 10 episodes of the animated series.
"Talks About Nothing": Features philosophical discussions with celebrities, scientists, writers and today's leading thinkers on the concept of nothing.
"Hazmat": When a prank goes horribly wrong, a group of friends must fight for their lives.
"Dark House": Man can tell how a person will die by touching them.
"Dirty Jobs Down Under": Mike Rowe looks for dirty jobs in Australia.
"Against the Wild": Three people battle for survival when their plane crashes.
"Samson and Delilah": Story of the strongman and the woman who seduces and betrays him.
"100 Years Of Wrigley Field": Chronicles the history of Wrigley Field.
"Big History": Turns history on its head.
"Commitment": Singer decides to follow in his father's footsteps in the spy thriller.
"JFK: The Smoking Gun": Chronicle of the assassination of John F. Kennedy through forensic analysis.
"In Fear": Psychological horror about a young couple's fight to make it through the night.
"Eric Clapton — The 1970s Review": Follows Clapton's journey through the '70s.